Case Study: Boosting Email Campaigns With Custom Design Modules

Project Profile 💼

In a snapshot:

  • Time: Spring 2019 – Summer 2019
  • Role: UX Designer
  • Team: 1 UX manager, 1 UX designer, partnered creative and marketing team
  • Location: Remote

My main contributions:

  1. Pitched stakeholders on module idea
  2. Developed custom email template
  3. Developed custom drag’n’drop modules
  4. Tested UI/UX and led various iterations

Introduction & Background 📖

The LaCalle Group (LCG) recognized the need for an efficient email templating engine to support its Continued brand for EdTech verticals. The primary objective was to empower marketers to update marketing copy and assets within emails easily and swiftly, without relying on UI/UX or frontend development teams. However, the migration from MailChimp to Marketo resulted in several challenges, exacerbating the email template migration process.

During the migration, the absence of seamless translation of styles and custom markup from MailChimp to Marketo led to inconsistent design patterns in emails. As a consequence, emails were being sent without uniform aesthetics and encountered issues with display on mobile viewports. This lack of consistency diminished the impact of the marketing campaigns and compromised user experience.

Moreover, the reliance on inconsistent, one-off emails created bottlenecks for the creative team. Their responsibility for creating drop-in imagery for each email, which varied in design and layout, adversely impacted the team’s throughput, making the process inefficient and time-consuming.

In light of these challenges, it became evident that a robust and user-friendly email templating engine was necessary to streamline the email creation process, ensure consistent design patterns, and expedite marketing campaigns. The engine’s implementation aimed to empower marketers to independently manage and update email content and assets, while adhering to a standardized design and layout framework.

By addressing these challenges head-on, the LaCalle Group sought to optimize its email marketing operations and enhance user engagement through coherent and visually appealing email campaigns. The introduction of an effective email templating engine promised to revolutionize the marketing workflow, benefiting both marketers and creative teams alike, and reinforcing the Continued brand’s position in the EdTech verticals.

The Challenge 🧗

With LCG’s continuous need to send emails across its eight verticals, a simple Marketo template was insufficient to support the Marketing team’s efforts in creating clean and consistent-looking emails independently. Recognizing this challenge, in-depth discussions on business requirements and thorough exploration of Marketo’s documentation were undertaken to find a solution.

Taking the lead in this endeavor, I spearheaded the introduction of drag-and-drop modules within Marketo’s email builder. These modules were designed to empower our marketers, allowing them to easily assemble emails without the need for UI/UX or frontend development assistance.

To ensure brand consistency, the drag-and-drop modules adhered to LCG’s muted color palette, aligning with the Continued brand’s visual identity. Additionally, our typography guidelines were consistently maintained across all modules, enabling a coherent and professional appearance for all marketing communications.

The introduction of these user-friendly drag-and-drop modules streamlined the email creation process significantly. Marketers gained the ability to swiftly build emails that adhered to brand standards, eliminating the risk of inconsistent design patterns and ensuring that emails were visually appealing across all verticals.

By providing this efficient and standardized solution, the Marketing team’s productivity soared, and the burden on the creative team was reduced. The drag-and-drop modules offered autonomy to marketers, enabling them to create engaging email campaigns with ease, freeing up resources and improving the overall workflow efficiency.

With the implementation of the new email templating system, LCG could now confidently send professional, brand-compliant emails, enhancing user engagement and reinforcing the Continued brand’s reputation in the EdTech verticals. The successful integration of drag-and-drop modules into Marketo’s email builder marked a significant milestone in optimizing LCG’s email marketing operations, empowering the team to deliver impactful and consistent communication across all verticals.

The Requirements 📋

In response to Marketing’s desire to promote LCG’s near-perfect TrustPilot reviews and their associated point values, I took the initiative to create custom modules tailored to this purpose. These custom modules included vertical logos, hero blocks, CTAs (Call to Action), and multi-column blocks.

One of the key challenges was the dynamic nature of TrustPilot reviews, with their point values potentially changing over time. To address this, I devised multiple versions of the TrustPilot review module, ensuring flexibility and ease of updating. One such version featured a small WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, allowing Marketing to make real-time changes to the review content and associated point values.

The WYSIWYG editor granted Marketing full control over the content displayed in the TrustPilot review module, empowering them to showcase the latest and most relevant reviews to their target audience. This capability was crucial in maintaining up-to-date and trustworthy information, reinforcing LCG’s reputation and credibility.

By incorporating these custom modules into Marketo’s email builder, Marketing was equipped with versatile tools to craft engaging and personalized email campaigns. The ability to highlight TrustPilot reviews, coupled with the flexibility to modify content effortlessly, significantly bolstered the effectiveness of the email marketing efforts.

Furthermore, these custom modules provided a consistent look and feel, ensuring brand alignment across all email communications. With the option to utilize the pre-designed modules for various marketing purposes, LCG’s email campaigns exuded a professional and cohesive visual identity.

In addition to the custom modules and dynamic TrustPilot review integration, I proactively engaged with the various marketers and proposed the idea of incorporating subtle transparent textures into their email designs. Recognizing the impact of subtle nuances in email aesthetics, I emphasized that these small yet significant details could effectively enhance open rates and click-through rates (CTRs), a vital aspect often overlooked in email marketing.

The concept of introducing transparent textures aimed to add flair and visual appeal to the email designs, elevating the overall user experience. These subtle textures could lend a touch of sophistication and uniqueness to each email campaign, setting them apart from generic and plain designs. By introducing these refined elements, LCG’s emails could create a more engaging and memorable impression on recipients, encouraging them to open and interact with the content.

Moreover, such attention to design details could instill a sense of trust and professionalism in the email communications, further reinforcing the Continued brand’s credibility among its audience. The inclusion of these subtle textures aligned with LCG’s commitment to maintaining a high-quality visual identity and creating a positive brand perception.

Throughout this process, I collaborated closely with the marketers, gathering feedback and refining the transparent texture designs to suit their specific needs and preferences. This collaborative approach ensured that the email campaigns were not only aesthetically appealing but also aligned with the marketing team’s objectives and messaging.

Ensuring mobile-friendliness was another crucial requirement for LCG’s email templates, and I am pleased to confirm that this objective was successfully achieved. The responsive design implementation ensured that the emails adapted seamlessly to various mobile devices, eliminating any need for horizontal scrolling or pinch-zooming.

By leveraging responsive design techniques, the email templates automatically adjusted their layout and content to fit the screen size of the user’s device. This user-centric approach offered a smooth and intuitive experience for recipients, regardless of whether they were viewing the emails on smartphones or tablets.

The mobile-friendly email templates optimized the visual presentation and readability of the content, making it easily accessible and visually appealing on smaller screens. This enhancement not only enhanced the user experience but also contributed to increased engagement and interaction with the emails.

Moreover, the mobile-friendly design approach aligned with contemporary best practices for email marketing, as an increasing number of recipients access emails through their mobile devices. By meeting this requirement, LCG’s emails demonstrated a commitment to delivering an exceptional user experience across all devices, further reinforcing the Continued brand’s dedication to user satisfaction.

The Process ✍️

The design and development process for the email templating engine involved seamless collaboration and iterative refinement to ensure optimal results. The process consisted of the following key stages:

  1. Collaboration with Stakeholders: The initial phase involved several rounds of discussions with key stakeholders, including the Email Communcations Director, Marketers, and Creative Director. These sessions aimed to gather insights into the specific requirements and desired functionalities for the email templating engine. Valuable feedback and suggestions from these stakeholders played a pivotal role in shaping the project’s direction.
  2. UX Manager and Marketing Team Input: To ensure a user-centric approach, the UX Manager and essential marketing team members were actively involved in the design process. Their expertise and insights helped in creating intuitive and user-friendly modules that resonated well with the marketing team’s workflows and objectives.
  3. HTML Validation and Email Testing: Rigorous rounds of HTML validation and email testing were conducted to ensure the compatibility and consistent rendering of the email templates across various email clients and devices. This comprehensive testing approach ensured that the emails delivered an optimized and uniform experience to all recipients.
  4. Module Creation and Customization: Over the course of the project, I developed nearly three dozen email modules that marketers could easily access and customize to align with their specific needs. These modules encompassed a wide range of functionalities, providing marketers with versatile tools to build engaging and personalized email campaigns.

Some of the email modules created included but were not limited to:

  • Vertical logos: Enabling the inclusion of vertical-specific logos for brand consistency.
  • Hero blocks: Featuring attention-grabbing sections to highlight key messages or promotions.
  • CTAs (Call to Action): Empowering marketers to incorporate compelling CTAs to drive conversions.
  • Multi-column blocks: Allowing for flexible content layouts for diverse marketing content.

Throughout the process, collaboration, feedback, and testing were integral to fine-tuning the email templating engine to meet the exact requirements of LCG’s marketing team. The outcome was a robust, user-friendly, and versatile system that empowered marketers to effortlessly create impactful and visually consistent email campaigns, amplifying the effectiveness of LCG’s email marketing endeavors.

Results 💪

The implementation of the new email templating engine and its accompanying modules yielded remarkable outcomes, significantly impacting various key performance indicators (KPIs) and streamlining marketing operations. The results were nothing short of transformative:

  1. Enhanced KPIs: Across the board, KPIs experienced a substantial boost, often doubling their previous performance. Metrics such as open rates, click-through rates (CTR), conversion rates, and engagement metrics witnessed remarkable improvements. The optimized and visually appealing email campaigns resonated more effectively with recipients, leading to higher levels of interaction and response.
  2. Increased Efficiency: The new email templating engine empowered the marketing department to execute their campaigns with remarkable ease and efficiency. With a comprehensive set of modules at their disposal, marketers could quickly create and customize engaging email content without the need for extensive UI/UX or frontend development support. This newfound autonomy translated into faster campaign execution and reduced turnaround times.
  3. Streamlined Processes: The systematic approach implemented in solving the challenge of managing email campaigns for multiple verticals alleviated the creative team’s workload significantly. By offering a standardized and cohesive set of modules, the creative team could seamlessly adapt designs to various verticals without the need for exhaustive customizations. This streamlined process freed up valuable bandwidth, enabling the team to focus on more strategic initiatives.
  4. Positive Impact on Email Communications Team: With the new email templating engine in place, the Email Communications Team experienced fewer inquiries and requests from the marketing department. The intuitive and user-friendly interface allowed marketers to manage their campaigns independently, leading to a reduction in workload for the Email Communications Team.

The successful implementation of the email templating engine and custom modules resulted in a significant transformation of LCG’s email marketing efforts. The substantial improvements in KPIs, increased efficiency in campaign execution, and the alleviation of creative team bandwidth all contributed to the creation of a more efficient and effective marketing machine. The systematized approach to managing email campaigns for multiple verticals paved the way for a streamlined and optimized marketing operation, positioning LCG for continued success in its marketing endeavors.